High Noon
Intakt CD 063

Gary Cooper must be spinning in his grave like a turntable.

That's because this duo session by Sharp and Marclay — named for High Noon, the classic 1952 western in which Cooper starred — isn't a comfy C&W celebration but a face-to-face throwdown by the sort of sonic explorers who populated sci-fi flicks in Cooper's heyday. Worse, not only does Sharp wield an effects-laden guitar like a mean gunslinger — he probably couldn't properly perform "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin'" if he wanted to — but Marclay also isn't playing Tex Ritter 78s on his machine, but improvising with it.

Yep, Cooper is dead and so are Cold War ideas of what's involved in improvisation. But idea-driven CDs like this only succeed if the musicians involved go beyond gimmickry to produce legitimate sonic soundscapes. Luckily Sharp, who has functioned as a so-called "legit" composer, and Marclay, who has been experimenting with turntables for more than 20 years, are more than capable of doing that.

Too often DJs-come-lately use LP samples to comment on other music with a sort of adolescent snarkiness. Marclay is beyond that. He manipulates pure sound as well as song snatches, shoehorning them into unexpected places. Layered upon Sharp's "Telstar" guitar-style timbres the Western-titled tunes often become otherworldly creations from untraceable sources.

Open-minded listeners who enjoy being challenged will love this disc. More conservative ones will likely hate it. Is it jazz? Maybe. Is it impressive improvisation? Very definitely.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1: Binding Shadow 2. Wait 3. Ghosts Town 4. Tin Stars 5. Deadeye 6. I'll come out ... let her go! 7. So Short So Long 8. The Noon Train

Personnel: Christian Marclay (turntables); Elliott Sharp (guitars)